Gary Smith; Business Owner Of Billie Jeans
Gary Smith, business owner of Billie Jeans, in Epping, left school at 16 with 6 O levels. Gary then perfected his talents as a DJ which followed into career in promotions. Gary was instrumental in the launch of the Sugar Hut Group, Brentwood, Sky Bar & Mantra, Ware and recently Legends, Witham.
iN Magazine caught up with Gary to talk about his life, his loves and his passion for the night club scene. We were greeted by glittering pink wallpaper and pictures of icons from the 80’s; this wasn't the only surprise Gary had in store for us...
iN: (Looking onto the Billie Jeans facade) Wow, that is quite some statement.
GS: (Laughing) See it made you smile! Yes, welcome to our newest creation. Billie Jeans wrapped in a Union Jack to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee. It's our way of involving Epping and our customers in this year’s celebration, in honour of our Queen. Maybe she’d like to come and see it and party a bit? Maybe we could host her after party!
iN: It’s definitely eye catching, I can’t deny that! First you gave us flouro pink with turquoise foliage, and now Billie Jeans wrapped in the colours of our nation... where do you get the inspiration?
GS: I suppose it’s like many bar/club people owners, we are always having to think up something new, how we can get people talking. Raina (my partner in crime) had her way with the pink - now it was my turn.
iN: Have you had any complaints or are you respected for thinking out of the box?
GS: Yes, we get complaints here & there but it’s usually from people who don’t understand what you’re doing or why? Maybe they’re just scared of change? Most people love it, that we dare to be different. Life should be fun, not dreary. And nothing is for ever.
iN: How did you arrive at the Billie Jeans concept?
GS: When we took the Epping site it was already a beautiful bar, but it wasn’t working; we knew we had to think of something radical. I always wanted an 80’s bar. After visiting many other venues, seeing the same old, same old, my mind was made up. Go completely over the top, glitter, chrome, old style lights... and recreate a full on 80’s themed bar. It was an instant success and instantly gave people what they wanted… a great fun night out.
iN: You've had quite a few tweets from celebrities such as Mark, Jessica & Carol Wright, and several 80’s stars like Tony Hadley, Jason Donovan, Cheryl Baker & Kenny Thomas; do you entertain many famous people?
GS: Many over the years, some of which are still friends. Now mainly when show and touring/filming commitments allow, I normally get a call that someone is on their way and we do the rest to make sure they have an enjoyable night, without getting mobbed to much. I think some of them love to re live the 80’s.
iN: There seems to be much debate currently regarding the longevity of Billie Jeans, the rumour-mill has even suggested you are closing, is there any truth behind the whispers? And who do you think is starting them?
GS: No, we are not closing, or even thinking about it. Our Landlords applied for planning to give the building further purpose in the future; obviously after Billie Jeans has fulfilled its life. The local papers covered the story of the planning being granted, and glamorised it as they do, and in turn mislead people by making it look like we were closing that very week to be demolished, something which is just not true. But hey - we’re still getting talked about. So thank you.
iN: A Billie Jeans in Epping, another called Legends in Witham; is this the start of a mini empire?
GS: (Laughing) No, not in this climate. I’ve got enough grey hairs as it is.
iN: Your concept really does cater for all ages. Under 18's nights, Friday's and Saturdays for an older crowd, and a favorite for private parties with an 80’s fancy dress twist; what else has Billie Jeans got in store for 2012?
GS: Well much of the same really, there’s not to much more we can do! We are looking forward to the Summer, the odd all dayers and of course our 2nd birthday in July. If you are looking for the best fun night out, with a friendly crowd and the odd celeb or two...then set Billie Jeans as your destination.
I came away from Billie Jeans with smile on my face, you certainly can’t fault Gary’s enthusiasm. And although I'm not sure why the rumour mill started, the one thing I am sure about... Billie Jeans 80’s Bar is here to stay, and just for this moment, proudly flying the British flag for Epping.
The Ultimate 80's Bar